|Charles "Butch Graham, forty, the middle child of eleven siblings,
says his parents were moonshiners and he has always been attracted to bars.
He and his lover of three years, Jimmy Cason, thirty-two, run a pair of
gay bars, Crossroads and Ollie Mae's, near Meridian, Mississippi.
Butch has run other bars. His last, called Poppers, was closed in 1987 after a petition of two hundred Meridian residents and a nightly stakeout at the bar ended in violence. The police declared the bar a public nuisance.
Jimmy and Butch were photographed outside of Ollie Mae's, a bar Butch named in honor of his mother.
There were twenty-one days of siege. Whole families
would come. It was twenty people, then thirty, and then forty, every night.
They'd call you "faggot." Every day I would get hit with one or two eggs.
I'd get yellow on the back of my head. They'd run my business off so just
four or five people would come to the bar. We didn't leave anytime sooner
than one o'clock because I wasn't going to be closing down and going home
because they were forcing us to.
They'd bust out windows, the Christians, setting up there preaching on the Bible. They called it a "fag bar," a "queer bar," an AIDS factory." They'd use paint pellets-paint spots all over the wall in red, blues, yellows. They wrote "AIDS factory" on the side of the building. I wouldn't paint the building. It stayed up twenty-one days. The owner of the building offered me back my rent, my lease, and everything else to get me out of the building, because they were threatening to burn it down.
On the last night, the general mood was good. We'd been threatened with baseball bats and shotguns and everything else, and now we were talking one-on-one in the street. Then this guy, speaking in tongues, comes through he crowd with a baseball bat. My friend picked up the camcorder, cut it on, and was getting it up, and the guy hit the camera. Then someone hit somebody else behind the head with a baseball bat. I got hit. Then the police finally came. Down at the station everybody was charging everybody else.
The next day I got a hand-delivered letter from the chief of police to cease business for public welfare. So it was better to attack good old Butch than to tell all those citizens they were wrong. The city allowed people to destroy a business. It could have been Jewish, it could have been Baptist or Catholic or whatever. It was a business. It just depends on what you are fighting for. The bar was not a major factor. I just wasn't going to allow them to just run me off.
Even today, out here at Crossroads, I still lose mailboxes about every three weeks. I still lose signs. I've been shot at. When I first opened up out here, they shot my car up in the parking lot and set my house on fire. Threw gasoline up on the side of it and threw a match on it.
I found out who they were, because they were running their mouths. And one thing about it: you just never know where gay people are, and if you keep quiet about it the information's going to come back to you. I ain't going to tell you what I did. Now they know that if you mess with me I will come and mess with you.